PopeWatch: Kristin Lavransdatter

From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of Tiber:



Expressing her disbelief that you’ve never read Kristin Lavransdatter, local Thomas Aquinas College student Amanda Jones has announced that she demands that you read the books now, sources have reported.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Jones said for the third consecutive time before entering adoration. “How have you never read the series? Were you raised by pagans? Seriously, this series has everything. Think of Jane Austen, then baptize her. That’s Sigrid Undset, the author. She’s totally an author for women. Not sure why she hasn’t been canonized yet. She’s totally a saint. I pray to her every night. Two months ago I prayed to her for a husband and just days later I swear I saw a guy who totally looked like what I imagine Erlend Nikulaussøn from the estate of Husaby in Trondelag looks like. Haven’t seen him since, but I’m sure God will show him to me again. All in God’s time, right? Who knows, my mysterious beloved might this very moment be in the process of being excommunicated by the Church for openly cohabitating with his own Eline, thus leading him to me.”

At press time, Thomas Aquinas College officials have announced that no high school applicant is to be allowed entrance into the school without first having read the entire series at least ten time, and loving it as much as Lavrans loves his wife Ragnfrid, who suffers from depression after the loss of three infant sons and the crippling of her younger daughter Ulvhild.

Go here to comment.  On this occasion PopeWatch is going to defer to Mrs. PopeWatch, a great fan of the books:

At least you don’t have to read Kristin Lavransdatter in the original Norwegian (unless you were a Scandinavian Studies geek like me, in which case you might have read at least bits of it in Norwegian)!  There are 2 different English translations available of Kristin Lavransdatter.  The older one (which I have in a hardcover copy) adopted a deliberately quasi-medieval archaic type of English, which gives a nice period feel, but might be a bit difficult to understand.  The newer one (which I have in a set of 3 paperbacks) is supposed to be a more faithful translation of the original Norwegian, and uses more modern English.  I believe both editions may still be in print (or at least both can be purchased from the online used bookseller of your choice); check the product description if you prefer 1 edition over the other.

Kristin Lavransdatter does not start out as an ideal role model for young women.  She falls madly in love with Erlend (who probably wasn’t the fellow her parents would have picked as a suitable husband) while attending a convent school in town, and ends up having to marry him to save her reputation.  Her character develops over the course of the book, however, and she’s quite a formidable lady by the time the Black Death reaches the convent in Trondheim she’s retired to as a widow late in the book.  If you like historical fiction, Kristin Lavransdatter is a pretty good choice for a meaty tome to sink your teeth into, without imposing anachronistic modern attitudes upon its characters.  Give it a try!



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  1. The first book was required summer reading prior to junior or senior year at my second high school, Immaculata. As I recall it inspired me to read the rest of the series. It was a long time ago.
    I am surprised that these books are still available and that in the 2000s women acquaintances in their 30s to 60s have discovered Sigrid Undset’s books.

  2. Undset- Nobel Prize. and

    “However, she did not turn to the established Lutheran Church of Norway, where she had been nominally reared. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 1924, after thorough instruction from the Catholic priest in her local parish. She was 42 years old. She subsequently became a lay Dominican.”

    “When Germany invaded Norway in April 1940, Undset was forced to flee. She had strongly criticised Hitler since the early 1930s, and, from an early date, her books were banned in Nazi Germany. She had no wish to become a target of the Gestapo and fled to neutral Sweden. Her eldest son, Second Lieutenant Anders Svarstad of the Norwegian Army, was killed in action at the age of 27, on 27 April 1940, in an engagement with German troops at Segalstad Bridge in Gausdal.”

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